Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

National History Day

National History Day 2017 — Student and Teacher Resources

Doctor or Doctress has a number of rich, interesting topics and resources that work well with the 
2017 NHD theme: Taking a Stand in History

Learn more about the 2016-2017 theme at ».
"To take a stand, one must take a firm position on an issue....When looking at different individuals and groups who took a stand, there are examples of those who used force, words, and economic power to make their voices heard. These people are remembered because they had an impact on history and inspired others to follow them." (from the 2017 Theme Sheet)

NHD topic ideas for 2017:

  • A new way of life: Women doctors enter the workforce
    After opening in 1850 in Philadelphia, the first medical college for women led the way for others.  The founders and students faced many challenges and had to fight for their place in a profession where there had only been men up to that point. Primary sources & background »
  • Women medical students take a stand against their male counterparts
    In 1869, nearly 20 years after the first women’s medical school opened, female students faced a mob of male students who thought that women had no right to be doctors.  Explore the opposition that 19th century female medical students faced and overcame to acquire a medical education. Primary sources & background »
  • Women in wartime make their own opportunities
    Uncover how American Women’s Hospitals played a vital role in providing medical care to civilians in WWI-era France, in an area devastated by war. Primary sources & background »
  • Black women doctors overcome obstacles
    Around 1900, African American women who became doctors had trouble finding jobs, so many created their own opportunities and became leaders caring for people in their communities. Primary sources & background »
  • Women create new healthcare possibilities in the Middle East
    In the early 1900s, women in the Middle East and South Asia were often unable to find health care because their cultures did not allow male doctors to see female patients.  Some women wanted to fix this dangerous situation by becoming doctors, which was an unusual thing for women at that time. Primary sources & background »

In addition to these suggested topics, explore all of our Digital Collections on Women Physicians, with free online access to 1000s of items, including images, correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, college records, diaries, and ephemera documenting the history of women.

If you are in the Philadelphia region and want to visit, we welcome students and teachers to use and tour our archives.  For students and teachers, we are open evenings by appointment.

For all teachers and classrooms, we can offer no-cost video chat services like research assistance, virtual classroom visits, and live video tours. Contact us to make arrangements and learn more!

Email us at if you have any questions.